Dementia is a word that describes a group of symptoms that affect memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough that they interfere with your daily life. Though dementia normally involves memory loss, memory loss alone doesn't mean you have dementia. Dementia is caused by damage to nerve cells and their connections in the brain. Depending on the area of the brain that's affected, dementia can affect people differently and cause different symptoms. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, but not the only one.
There’s no cure for dementia, but a diagnosis doesn’t mean that your life is over. There are treatments available for the symptoms, and steps you can take to help slow the progression of the disease. Regular exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, stress management, social engagement, and mental stimulation have been shown to slow symptom onset.
What is normal?
We all change as we age. Simple forgetfulness (misplacing your keys) and taking more time to remember names, dates, and events can be part of the normal process of aging. These changes have little impact on your ability to do what you want to do. But ongoing forgetfulness, problems with planning and judgement, and difficulties communicating that interfere with normal day-to-day life and activities are not considered normal aging.
What are common signs and symptoms?
Dementia symptoms vary (depending on the cause), but common signs and symptoms include:
- Memory loss (usually noticed by spouse, friend, or coworkers)
- Difficulty communicating or finding words
- Difficulty with visual and spatial abilities—like getting lost while driving
- Difficulty reasoning or problem-solving
- Difficulty handling complex tasks
- Difficulty with planning and organizing
- Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
- Confusion and disorientation
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behaviour
Should I seek help?
See a doctor if you or a loved one has memory problems or other dementia symptoms. Some medical conditions can cause dementia symptoms that can go away when properly diagnosed and treated. If dementia is diagnosed, accessing information, support, and treatment is important to live well and plan for the future.
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